Prevention of mesh-dependent damage growth in finite element simulations of crack formation in acrylic bone cement

J. Stolk, N.J.J. Verdonschot, K.A. Mann, R. Huiskes

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Peak stress levels predicted in finite element analysis (FEA) usually depend on mesh density, due to singular points in the model. In an earlier study, an FEA algorithm was developed to simulate the damage accumulation process in the cement mantle around total hip replacement (THR) implants. It allows cement crack formation to be predicted, as a function of the local cement stress levels. As the simulation is driven by mesh-dependent peak stresses, predicted crack formation rates are also likely to be mesh dependent. The aim of this study was to evaluate the mesh dependence of the predicted crack formation process, and to present a method to reduce the mesh dependence. Crack-propagation experiments were simulated. Experimental specimens, representing transverse slices of cemented THR reconstructions, were subjected to cyclic torsional loading. Crack development around the corners of the stem was monitored. The experiments were simulated using three meshes with increasing levels of mesh refinement. Crack locations and orientations were accurately predicted, and were virtually independent of the level of mesh refinement. However, the experimental crack propagation rates were overestimated considerably, increasing with mesh refinement. To eliminate the effect of stress singularities around the corners of the stem, a stress averaging algorithm was applied in the simulation. This algorithm redistributed the stresses by weighted spatial averaging. When damage accumulation was computed based on averaged stresses, the crack propagation rates predicted were independent of the level of mesh refinement. The critical distance, a parameter governing the effect of the averaging algorithm, was optimized such that the predicted crack propagation rates accurately corresponded to the experimental ones. These results are important for the validity and standardization of pre-clinical testing methods for orthopaedic implants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-871
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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